Outside the coffee house where she works, Lindsey (25, second-year philosophy student) lets out a sigh. She currently works there 12 hours a week, but that is not enough to make ends meet. “I borrow the maximum loan amount in addition to my income from work, but by the last week of my month, I often only have 10 euros left for groceries. I feel hesitant to ask my parents for money, because they don’t make enough to be able to help me.” Lindsey would like to take one or two extra shifts, but she already has to skip classes for work. “I spend more time at work than on campus. I’d like it to be the other way around.”

Lindsey zou graag meer werken, maar moet nu al colleges overslaan.
Lindsey would like to work more, but already has to skip classes. Image credit: Wouter Sterrenburg

She has already started living more frugally and hopes to cut back further, since the new gas bill has yet to arrive. She lives in a privately rented and poorly insulated old house. “I’m already having a difficult time getting the landlord to fix the broken front door, so I’m not feeling optimistic. I’ve quit smoking, I eat at friends’ houses, I do my grocery shopping at the market and I’m not going out or to the cinema next month. Hopefully, that way I’ll have something left for the more expensive months.”

Two cubic metres of gas for € 250 per month

The new gas bill is also causing headaches for Kas (25, final-year philosophy student): “I’m now paying 140 euros more on my own than we paid with three people in my last house.” He takes cold showers, turns off the pilot light and does not have a radiator, which gives him an astronomically low consumption of 2 cubic metres of gas per month. Despite all this, he received an increase that amounts to a total of 250 euros per month. “I borrow money, work as a student assistant, teach master classes at secondary schools and receive a housing benefit, but my income still barely covers my fixed expenses.”

Stijgende-energiekosten-gasprijzen-1-Migle-Alonderyte-2

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The rising cost of food is another reason for Kas to be frugal. For example, he only buys bread on Tuesdays, when it is on sale. Otherwise, he simply does not eat bread. “I used to be able to get two days’ worth of groceries for 15 euros, but now you’re lucky if you get the same dinner for less than 20 euros.” To compensate, he compromises on social events. “Going for drinks outdoors or going to a concert or museum isn’t a necessity, of course, but these are still places where you develop a social life and get the necessary variety between studying and working. I actually can’t do that anymore, at least not without feeling guilty. I recently had money for two weeks of the month and had to choose: do I skimp for two weeks and then improvise for another two weeks, or do I live ‘normally’ for one week and spend three weeks dealing with the consequences? I’ve never been reckless before, but I chose the latter. It was a given that I wouldn’t have anything anyway.”

Borrowing more

“I waited to move to a room so that I could get a cheap house through Stadswonen. One of those with a dropped ceiling”, says Sanne (23, Master’s student in Engaging Public Issues). Despite the cheap housing, she too has been hit hard by the price increases. She works two days a week as a thesis supervisor and used to be able to make ends meet, but she recently had to increase her loan. “I always borrowed as little as possible, because that debt will be a burden later on. But sometimes, combining work with a full-time Master’s is tough. I like to be busy, and the combination often works well, but sometimes it doesn’t.”

Sanne is meer moeten gaan lenen om rond te komen.
Sanne has had to borrow more to make ends meet. Image credit: Wouter Sterrenburg

She has adapted her lifestyle to the price increases: buying groceries once a week at Dirk instead of Albert Heijn and making an agreement with all thirteen housemates to leave the heating off until it’s absolutely necessary. “We didn’t think about it in the past, but if someone were to turn on the heating now, there would be a big discussion.” She has a cold attic room, so “blankets and warm clothes are a must; it helps that Uggs are suddenly fashionable again.”